“As Martha Graham said, ‘Technique has a three-fold purpose: strength of body, freedom of body and spirit and spontaneity of action,’” says Virginie Mécène, director of the New York City–based Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. “Our approach is to give participants the fundamental basis of the technique, so that wherever it is taught, its essentials remain intact.” Both teachers-in-training and seasoned educators will benefit from the MGSCD yearlong Teacher-Training Program, which started in the ’90s, and its new Teacher-Training Summer Intensive.

For one year, teacher-training students carefully analyze and break down every aspect of Graham technique, taking five to eight technique classes per week, plus dance history and elective courses. Participants teach each other, observe classes, notate assessments and, eventually, write a lesson plan and teach the class. Those who excel in the course may have the opportunity to teach as apprentices for MGSCD beginner and teen classes, and all who pass the course will receive a Certificate of Completion.

Mécène is confident that students acquire invaluable teaching skills. “The course explores demonstration skills, the ability to recognize weaknesses and apply appropriate verbal and/or physical corrections, classroom management, use of the voice and imagery, construction and development of a lesson and musicality,” she says. Students also work with rotating pairs of veteran Graham dancers and instructors throughout the year. “You’re directed by some of the most important and successful people in the contemporary dance world,” says Einat Iosefzon, who completed the program last June.

The training program is in such high demand that a full-time course of study for working teachers has now been established. The new Teacher-Training Intensive is set to run in NYC, June 22–July 17, 2009. It will include technique classes in conjunction with a repertory workshop, and a focus on individual needs, such as differences in teaching in public versus professional schools. Mécène hopes the intensive will facilitate relationships between teachers and the MGSCD—collaborations and student exchange programs are just a few of the possibilities.

Perhaps Iosefzon put it best when describing what makes the Graham programs so unique: “With Graham, the magic onstage comes from the class and the studio, and that is one of the most difficult things to learn as a teacher—how to create the magic.” DT

Program Prerequisites:
Advanced level Graham Technique, completion of Composition 1 and completion of two Advanced Repertory courses. Applicants not currently attending the Martha Graham School, but who have previously attended, must participate in at least two weeks of technique class through the Summer Intensive Course prior to the start of the program. Applicants who have never studied at the MGSCD must participate in the full six-week Summer Intensive Course the summer prior to the start of the program. All applicants must submit a personal statement of intent. More information about the Teacher-Training Summer Intensive is available online.

Interested applicants should contact: Virginia Mécène, Director, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance; 316 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065; 212-838-5886 x203; vmecene@marthagraham.org; www.marthagraham.org

Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

Here Rebecca Tsivkin, early childhood programs associate, and Kiri Avelar, associate school director, offer exercises to help youngsters feel the beat.

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Dance Buzz
Panelists (left to right): Emily Nusbaum, Eric Kupers, Judith Smith, Deborah Karp and Suzanna Curtis. Photo by Aiano Nakagawa, courtesy of Luna Dance Institute

This past Saturday, I visited Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, to attend the Dance & Disability Discourse & Panel—a discussion with five artists, educators and researchers about access and equity for disabled students in dance education. Here are three statements from the discussion that I found eye-opening.

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How-To
Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

You're setting choreography on your class and most of the students are picking it up. One dancer, though, is having difficulty remembering the steps. You review the material several times, but you fear that this is starting to hold back your more advanced students. Still, you're worried the struggling dancer will be left behind. What is the best way to proceed?

Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

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Dancer Health
Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

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How-To
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

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Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

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